In the course of a discussion with US Special Ambassador Richard Holbrooke in April 2009, David Cameron ñ then leader of the Opposition - ìsingled out XXXXXXXXXXXX as groups that the government should not be dealing with as conduits [sic] to the Muslim communitiesî (Wikileaks). On 30th November 2010 the Guardian stated that the redacted Xs in the US Embassy despatch masked the names of two organisations, Hizb ut-Tahrir and the Muslim Council of Britain.
The word ëconduití implies a one-way flow of information, in this case from Government to Muslim communities. Any civil society organisation with an ounce of self-respect would find it insulting to be considered merely a bearer of tidings from the Olympian heights to the awaiting masses. In a participative democracy, there is a dialogue between the elected representatives and the electorate. One would have thought that the role of government was to engage with all sections of society.
Muslims as a whole only form about 3% of the population, but demographically form much larger proportions of the young, ethnic inner city population ñ upto 12% in some locales. The four boroughs most affected by the 2012 Olympic Games will have a Muslim population of 250,000 by 2012 (in 2001 the boroughsí Muslim population was 190,000, with 70,000 aged under 15). Can any political leader of insight afford to take a community with such strategic importance off their radar?
Perhaps the Tory high command believes that lines of communication with Muslim civil society are unimportant because there are other measures in place to keep tabs on what is going on. A culture of paid Muslim informers and surveillance has been nurtured since 9/11. We know of some brave Muslims who have defied the pressure to become moles ñ most recently the tube driver Amir Ali, and the young men of the Kentish Town Community Organisation. But how many have succumbed?
The hostility Mr Cameron apparently evinced towards the Muslim Council of Britain in April 2009 in his Holbrooke meeting reflected the briefings received from his experts. The report ëUniting the Countryí prepared by the Conservative Partyís Group in January 2007 on National and International Security (chaired by Dame Pauline Neville ñJones) stated that the MCB has ìhardline members promulgating the teachings of Maududi and Qutb, who tend to dominate policy and crowd out moderate voices.î The MCB was thus deemed guilty by association - Muslims are to be denied the right to respect their historical personalities whose struggles and scholarship was framed in circumstances prevailing in their specific countries (Pakistan and Egypt respectively) and eras of the 1950s and 60s!
Dame Paulineís report also accused the MCB of harbouring a ëQaradawistí ideology! The MCBís sin was apparently to defend Shaikh Qaradawiís right to visit Britain in 2004 when he was subjected to a clearly orchestrated hate campaign in the media. The MCBís position was vindicated when the Crown Prosecution Service rejected the ëdossierí given to it by the Board of Deputies of British Jews urging for his prosecution for some of his pronouncements.
Cameronís views towards the MCB have thus been shaped by neocon briefings and pro-Israel partisanship. The Holbrooke-Cameron meetings took place at a time when relationships between the Labour Government and the MCB were at an all-time low ñ however clearly Labourís policies on the issues were being shaped by the same group also advising the Tories ñ a cross-party consensus!
In March 2009, the month preceding month his Holbrooke meeting, the Labour Secretary of State for Communities Hazel Blears had written to the MCB indicating that ìit is only appropriate for us to suspend our engagement with the Muslim Council of Britainî because of Deputy Secretary General Daud Abdullahís participation in the Istanbul Conference in Gaza. Hazel Blears asked for the MCB elected office-bearerís resignation, claiming that in signing the Conference Declaration he personally advocated ìattacks on Jewish communities all around the worldî. The MCBís Central Working Committee rejected the call for Dr Daudís resignation, and he himself instructed solicitors to proceed with a libel action to clear his name. When Blears was replaced as Communities Secretary by John Denham, the MCBís Secretary General took extraordinary somersaults to mend fences, presumably in the expectation that if there was a change of government, then the ëMCB fileí that Denham would hand over to his successor would be stamped with a clean 'non-extremist' bill of health. Alas, to no avail. The lesson must be: one can never do enough to please.
Hazel BlearsÖ.Policy ExchangeÖ.Michael Gove Ö.David Cameron ñ join the dots. Gove - now Education Secretary - not only founded Policy Exchange, a think tank notorious for sensationalist reports with titles such as ëWhen Progressives Treat With Reactionariesí, 'The Hijacking of British Islam' and ëChoosing our Friends Wisely: Criteria for Engagement with Muslim Moderatesí but is also author of the polemic ëCelsius 7/7 ñ How the Westís policy of appeasement has provoked yet more fundamentalist Terrorí - described as a 'neo-con rallying cry'. When Hazel Blears was in office she too participated in Policy Exchange seminars ñ a Labour Cabinet minister at Cameronís favourite think tank!
The Tory partyís aloofness towards the Muslim community has become even more well-entrenched since April 2009. In October 2010, Party co-Chair Warsiís representation at the Global Peace & Unity Conference was over-ruled by high command ñ ì"she had hoped to attend, but there is a conflict of opinion on how extremists should be dealt with and the prime minister, supported by Theresa May [the home secretary], were adamant no Tories should attendî (The Guardian, 24th October 2010). A month later the Home Secretary noted ìÖparticipating in society also means standing up against the extremists who would seek to divide us. The last government did not do enough to stand up to extremists. Indeed sometimes they seemed too willing to engage with them.î It does not require much forensic skills to spot that Theresa Mayís allusion to 'extremists' was code-speak for the MCB, and she was describing New Labourís dialogue with the MCB in those halcyon years from 1998 to 2000. The most recent snub came in the November 2010 Remembrance Sunday event in Whitehall ñ Cameron apparently ignored the Muslim guests
A further factor that queers the pitch is the increasing political profile of the Qadiani cult in Britain. This group has positioned itself as the ëmoderate and loyal voiceí for the British establishment. Its members are now well-entrenched at various levels in the Tory hierarchy, from policy units to party vice-chair.
The mainstream, middle of the road Muslim community organizations will clearly not get very far by knocking at Tory doors to highlight their many pressing concerns, that range from the way a socio-economically deprived population is affected by the public sector cuts to the corrosive drip-drip of anti-Muslim hate crimes and emboldened Islamophobia. Rather than rallying the community around dumb-downed messages and slogans, it is a time for a national conference with a new set of items on the agenda and a sharper focus: to increase public awareness of divide-and-rule policies and levels of surveillance; to face up to Muslim youth alienation with a programme of action; to seek out consensus between the Barelwi and Deobandi ulema so that there is a clear signal on Qadianism; to institute a mosque-led Islamophobia monitoring scheme.